Another Sunday, another decision. Where to hike this week? The high country was still snowed in, concentrating hikers on the Gorge trails. I didn't feel like fighting the crowds. Clear warm weather was in the forecast. Time to hike someplace with views.
|No, this is not Bald Butte
Then I heard that the flowers were really blooming up on Bald Butte. Hmmm.... I hadn't been there in a few years. I was due for a visit.
|Chuck admiring the bachelor button flowers
When I sent out a mass email looking for hiking companions, my friend Chuck responded. He was thinking about hiking the same place. Great minds really do think alike!
|Hmmm....what was this sign supposed to advise?
So Sunday morning found Chuck and I traveling through the town of Hood River and up Hwy 35 for a rendezvous with Bald Butte. Chuck had grown up in the Hood River Valley at the foot of Bald Butte, so for him this hike was like coming home.
|Our day's destination
It was a beautiful clear blue-sky day as Chuck and I set out from the trailhead. Not far up the trail we were treated to an incredible view of Mt. Hood's stunning north side. Chuck and I both agreed that this side was the mountain's best view. Hood was looking especially good, still wearing a coat of winter white. It looked absolutely stunning against the blue sky. I proceeded to click away, creating many images of my favorite mountain.
|Mt Adams sighting
Chuck and I climbed through an oak and pine forest that gave way to a clearing. The open meadow was chock-full of colorful bachelor button flowers. The flowers were vibrant blues and purples, with a few white ones randomly thrown in. One hillside was so covered it looked like small blue dots speckling the grass. Chuck told me he really loves bachelor buttons, and after that so did I!
The trail dipped back into the woods, and we continued our climb. Douglas fir trees began to join the oaks and pines. We began to see lupine and balsamroot flowers, however, some of them were looking withered and past their prime. I was hoping for a better floral display once we got higher up.
|The steep trail to the top
Through the trees, we got glimpses of Mt. St.Helens, and Bald Butte itself. We could look ahead and see our hike's destination, Bald Butte's grassy summit. It sure appeared like a long way still!
|Mt. Hood view on the way
Finally our trail intersected with a road on top of Surveyor's Ridge. It was there Chuck and I ran into a large group of teenage boys, accompanied by a few adults. We said our "hello's" and continued on to the Surveyor's Ridge Trail.
|Mt. St. Helens shows itself
We wound through woods on top of Surveyor's Ridge, and then came to the National Forest boundary. Beyond this boundary was the ugly portion of the hike. Our trail became a wide rocky dirt road that was shared with motorcycles and four wheel drives. Sometimes people use the adjacent roads and woods for target practice, and today we heard gunshots off in the distance. The trail passed under a large number of powerlines supported by a string of huge metal towers. Not exactly pristine wilderness!
|Patchwork quilt of Hood River Valley orchards
But to make up for the ugliness, the flowers were out in force. Balsamroot turned the grassy slopes of Bald Butte into a patch quilt of yellow and green. Purple lupine and orange paintbrush joined in the party.
|Introducing.......Mt. St. Helens!
Chuck and I followed the dusty rocky road, heading for the summit. The road got super-steep, and being out in the open under the blazing sun quickly zapped our energy. We gasped, sweated, and struggled up the trail, slowly putting one foot in front of the other.
|Makin' friends with the balsamroot
To break up the climb (and to steal some quick rest breaks) I stopped for Kodak moments along the way. The scenery was so stunning, I really didn't need the rest break excuse to stop. Mt. Hood loomed to the south. The Hood River Valley spread out below, showing its patchwork quilt of orchards and farm fields. The floral fields on Bald Butte's slopes provided good foreground material for my subjects. Unfortunately, the sky around Mt. Hood had clouded up a bit, and instead of this morning's blue, was now a dull white. I was glad I'd taken a bunch of Hood photos right away while the sky was still blue.
|Happy yellow flowers
Chuck continued on ahead, and I finally made my way to join him on the top of Bald Butte. On the summit was a jaw-dropping view of three mountain peaks - Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Rainer. The sky was still blue to the north, so I got some good photos of blue sky and white mountains.
Chuck and I settled into the grass for lunch with a view. Oh and how magnificent a view it was! The Hood River Valley stretched below us. Mt. Hood rose to the south. The Washington peaks dotted the sky to the north. Flowers bloomed in the meadows all around us. Chuck pointed out his childhood home, directly below us.
|Lovely bachelor button bloom
Then the group of boys caught up with us and gathered in the nearby summit meadows. We discovered they were a troop of Boy Scouts from Cleveland - Ohio! Wow, what a long way to travel. The kids were all awestruck by the mountains and flowers. I'm assuming they don't see many snow-capped peaks in Ohio. We saw lots of cameras coming out of packs and pointing in all directions.
|Bachelor buttons galore!
Chuck and I tore into our lunches with gusto. I was certain all that climbing had burned tons of calories. Surely enough to justify eating all the cookies I'd packed up with me. I love cookies, and have been trying to cut back on my consumption. But it's a tradition of mine to pack cookies on hikes. When climbing up something steep, you need the motivation of a sweet reward at the top.
After a nice rest and refueling, it was time to return to the trailhead. After the morning's climb, I was looking forward to a little downhill traveling for a change.
|Parting view of Hood near the trailhead
Back we traveled, sliding down the dusty road. The sky clouded over, providing better light for flower photography. I took full advantage of the conditions with frequent photo stops. Some of my hiking companions aren't very patient with my many Kodak moments, but Chuck said he was grateful for the rest breaks. What a great hiking buddy!
|Trailhead flower garden
With the subdued lighting, the colors in the bachelor button flower field were even more vivid. I took additional photo ops here and think I got some of my best images. You be the judge.
|Wonderful flower patch
We finally reached Chuck's car, dusty, tired and thirsty. After changing out of our boots and washing off our dirty legs and faces, a frosty beer at the nearby pub was sounding mighty good! And that's exactly where we headed.
Another great Sunday hike. I'm so lucky to have such a large variety of trails to explore right in my own backyard.